Celebrating OHU Day: 128 Years of Impact
This year, we officially made October 8th OHU Day, celebrating our 128th anniversary as an organization. As we continue to celebrate, let’s take a deep dive into OHU’s rich history and the individuals who have shaped our legacy.
Key Milestones in OHU’s Journey
- 1895: Reverend Ezra L. Scofield founded the Chicago Baptist Orphanage in Downers Grove, IL, which would eventually become One Hope United.
- 1903: Dr. J.A. Leavitt founded the Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home in Centralia, IL.
- 1948: Chicago Baptist Orphanage acquired the “Great House” in Lake Villa, marking a new chapter as the organization transitioned to Central Baptist Children’s Home.
- 1955: Executive Director, T.T. Mintun, started the Foster Care Home Service.
- 1987: Central Baptist Children’s Home entered into a management agreement with Hudelson Baptist Children’s Home.
- 1979: Bridgeport Child Development Center was acquired from the Salvation Army.
- 2001: Services were expanded into Florida.
- 2004: Central Baptist Children’s Home became Kids Hope United.
- 2010: Kids Hope United became One Hope United.
- 2020: One Hope United launched Hope Houses in Florida.
The Early Years
On October 8, 1895, Reverend Ezra L. Scofield founded the Chicago Baptist Orphanage in Downers Grove, IL to solve the serious social problems affecting children, including abandonment, workhouses, and inadequate care.
Scofield and his wife rented a small home in the area to establish the orphanage with Scofield becoming the first superintendent and Miss Nourse, the first matron–a support role that looked after the overall care and health of children. In addition to caring for the children, Scofield’s passion extended beyond providing a roof for children experiencing hardships, he also helped find foster and adoptive families for children at the orphanage.
Within years, Chicago Baptist Orphanage outgrew the space as Scofield and other founding members embarked on a journey to expand care for more children. The One Hope United that we know today grew from the single decision of a group of compassionate individuals to meet the needs of children in one community.
The Hudelson Home: Expanding Our Reach
In 1903, driven by the need to care for orphaned children, Dr. J.A. Leavitt and a group of compassionate citizens turned their vision into reality by founding the Hudelson Home in Centralia, IL. Backed by the generous support of Mr. William Hudelson and Miss Alice Gibbs, they embarked on a mission to provide a nurturing haven for orphaned children.
The Gibbs House, the first rental property named after the first matron, Miss Alice Gibbs, saw her wearing multiple hats. From cook and nurse to teacher and housekeeper, she was the backbone supporting up to 19 children at a time.
However, challenges arose. In 1922, a severe storm damaged the campus. Thanks to community support and a committed Executive Committee, by 1924 the property was rebuilt, housing up to 150 children.
Years later, Hudelson Home partnered with Central Baptist Family Services in the 1980s. This collaboration expanded services, focusing on children’s mental health, education and independent living. Today, the Hudelson Residential Campus supports youth, preparing them for the transition into various living situations with immediate or distant family members, foster families, and as independent young adults.
A New Home, A New Name
In 1948, 53 years after One Hope United was founded as Chicago Baptist Orphanage, a mansion known as the “Great House” was purchased in Lake Villa, IL from Fair Department Store owner, E.J. Lehmann. Along with the new location, Chicago Baptist Orphanage had also recently adopted a new name, Central Baptist Children’s Home.
In the years to follow, additional buildings were constructed on the property to provide more rooms for children to live at the campus. Continuing the legacy of the organization’s founding members, Grace Hastings Richardson and Mary Hess left a lasting impact on the campus and today buildings on campus are named in each of their honor.
The “Great House” (now known as the “Richardson House”), is where young Ermit L. Finch was welcomed as a new resident after leaving an orphanage in Arkansas. Ermit described living on the campus as “paradise” and found himself thriving as he took on new responsibilities and learned new skills. Many years later, as an adult, Ermit returned to the campus to reconnect with his childhood. Following that visit, Ermit became the first former resident to become a One Hope United board member and later a Life Director.
“[Ermit] talked about the agency to anyone who would listen and he convinced many people to come along the path with One Hope United, with him. He shared his resources, his stories, and his heart.” – Joyce Heneberry, Planned Giving Officer
Impact for Generations
Over the years, our organization expanded and evolved into the One Hope United we know today, now serving children and families in Illinois and Florida through Community-Based Family Services, Early Learning & Child Development, Residential Programs, and Behavioral Health Services. As our story continues, let’s remember all of the compassionate individuals who came together over the years to meet the needs of children and families in our community.
You too, can be a part of our story! It’s never too late to get involved in the OHU Day celebration by creating your own fundraiser or donating here (link). Whether it’s a community event, a virtual gathering, or any creative idea you have in mind, you will help continue to make a lasting impact and further OHU’s mission of serving and advocating for the thriving of children, youth, and families. Your generosity can ensure that our mission thrives for another 128 years and beyond.